Interview with Slaven Škrobot, Croatian travel blogger for people with disabilities

Slaven on a boat traveling to Palagruža
Slaven traveling to Palagruža, the farthest Croatian island from the mainland

Sometimes it may seem that the problems we struggle with are the biggest in the world and impossible to solve. Then we meet inspiring people like Slaven Škrobot who remind us to distinguish between the essential and less important. Slaven is a 36-year-old travel blogger from Croatia who shares his adventures from the perspective of a person with disabilities.

After an accident 13 years ago, Slaven was diagnosed with quadriplegia (tetraplegia) – a condition that affects one’s ability to move the upper and lower parts of the body.

Although this condition completely changed his life, he didn’t stop enjoying it to the fullest. Today, he inspires people with disabilities to travel and teaches others like him how to improve their quality of life. His adventures are followed worldwide, by both those with and without disabilities.

We were lucky to catch him for an interview since he is always on the road.

I spoke with Slaven in April 2022, during which we talked about…

Read the full interview below…

Slaven among balloons in Cappadocia
Slaven in Cappadocia

Interview with Slaven Škrobot, Croatian travel blogger

Marija: Can you briefly describe your life story? What happened to you?

Slaven: My life turned 180 degrees almost thirteen years ago with one unfortunate jump into the sea. I was on the island of Krk and the four of us were jumping into the sea from the pier like every normal summer day. I was last in line, so I waited for my friends to move and make a clearing in the sea.

When I ran into the sea, I saw a friend emerging from the water at the moment of my reflection from the pier. In a millisecond, I decided to remove my hands because I didn’t want to hurt him. I fell into the sea and hit him in his thigh. In this accident, I broke my fifth cervical spine and remained permanently disabled from the chest to the lower [part of my body], with a diagnosis of quadriplegia (tetraplegia).

After surgery and a year in the hospital, I was aware that my life would never be the same again. It was hard to get back to reality and normal life due to physical limitations. From that point, I knew that my strongest weapon must be my head. I started to work on myself and look for my new purpose, hobbies, and passion. I have found them in music and traveling.

Slaven with Maasai tribe in a Tanzanian village
Slaven with Maasai tribe in a Tanzanian village

Marija: How did you come up with the idea to become a travel blogger?

Slaven: In fact, it wasn’t me who came up with this idea. It was people who were texting me with their thoughts on how I should keep writing about my travels. After wandering around Europe, I went on my first long journey – to Morocco. Morocco absolutely delighted me!

On the way back, I found out about one competition and decided to apply for it. The task was to write a travelogue about a place that changed your life. The winner would get two return tickets to Australia. For me, that place was definitely Morocco. I knew that I have a good and unique story which has not been told yet in this region. However, I had no experience with writing.

I wrote the story, entered the finals, and won the competition of approximately 400 travelogues! I didn’t know how I was supposed to travel to Australia, but this was the moment all these people contacted me. I knew that was it, so I decided to start doing what I enjoy – writing about my travels.

Slaven cycling in Konavle, Croatia
Slaven cycling in Konavle, Croatia

Marija: Tell us about your travel blog.

Slaven: The blog is named after my name – Slaven Škrobot. I write mostly about my travels. In the future, I plan to write about things I have the need and desire to express myself about, mostly related to me and my disability.

I don’t have earnings from the blog itself at the moment. However, I plan to change this in the near future and generate a continuous income. Unfortunately, I do everything myself. Due to my physical limitations, I often don’t get to do things within the time limit I set since it usually takes three times longer.

I try to publish a blog post at least once a week and more often on Facebook. I do it out of passion and love, so I don’t pay too much attention to statistics. However, I am trying to ensure that my content is not monotonous and that each post of, let’s say, five of them is different – a bit of history, disability, me, and so on.

My readers are mostly women over the age of 40, but a lot of different people can be found among my audience.

I finance myself in many ways. I rent a space and a car, hold lectures, write for one internet web site and various companies, and of course, do various collaborations.

Slaven cycling near Labin, Croatia
Slaven cycling near Labin, Croatia

Marija: What do you do besides being a travel blogger? Do you have any hobbies? How do you spend your days?

Slaven: Apart from traveling, I like listening to music and going to concerts and festivals. I listen to records, collect guitar picks from concerts and sand from different parts of the world, and watch movies and TV series. I also like reading books even though I never get to do it.

I exercise every day. I ride my bike which is specially adapted for riding by hand and play table tennis. I enjoy exploring new destinations and reading about history. I am a big lover of nature and the sea, and I have a lizard. As you can see, I have enough hobbies and I like different things. Of course, there are also moments when I like to do absolutely nothing.

Marija: Do you have specific goals or do you live by the go-with-the-flow principle?

Slaven: When you work as a travel blogger, you constantly have to think ahead and plan announcements, projects, and trips for the future. People often do not understand that travel blogging is a serious job. We don’t go on these journeys just to tease and have fun. It is a 24/7 job and the planning can be quite exhausting and stressful.

Slaven at Ad Dier Monastery in Petra, Jordan
Slaven at Ad Dier Monastery in Petra, Jordan

Marija: How do you overcome difficult days? What are your biggest challenges?

Slaven: For people with 100% disability, easy days do not exist. To me, every day is a struggle. Getting up and dressed, exercising, having breakfast, and going out is much more complicated and time-consuming. You have to be strong in your mind to do all these things. However, when you have a very difficult day, but in the end, you accomplish everything you thought you wouldn’t – the satisfaction and fulfillment are much greater.

Personally, I look for small victories in small things every day. I have trained my brain to think positively even in the most difficult moments. I find positivity in negative things and focus on that. I often reverse the situation and turn the negative into the positive.

Marija: What is your biggest motivation in life?

Slaven: I think I am the biggest motivation for myself. Besides, there is no greater satisfaction than proving the opposite thing to someone. Situations in which people underestimate me are my greatest fuel. My spite takes me to places I never thought I would visit in this state.

Slaven cycling near Murter, Croatia
Slaven cycling near Murter, Croatia

Marija: Where have you traveled so far? What are the most exciting or favorite events from your travels?

Slaven: I have traveled a lot in Europe. However, Europe is not a continent that interests me that much. I have also traveled to Australia, Russia, Jordan, Tanzania, Morocco, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Egypt. There are a lot of travel stories, if not too many of them.

Planning of travels always revolves around attractions somehow. However, in the end, people are the ones that thrill you the most. Each trip is different and special in its own way. If I had to pick one, it would be my most difficult and longest trip. In 2021, I cycled from Savudrija, Croatia to Istanbul with my specially-adapted bike. It was a route of about 3.500 kilometers in half a year.

Marija: What was the most dangerous or craziest thing you experienced on your travels?

Slaven: If I mention everything, people would probably think I’m not normal. They probably wouldn’t be too far from the truth. I don’t consider these situations crazy. For me, they are completely normal while being on the road. I’m not seeking them and they happen spontaneously.

In El Jadida, Morocco, a man attacked us with a knife. In Egypt, we landed off the road three times and wandered into a military base. Because of this, three Kalashnikovs were aimed at us in pitch darkness for ten seconds. Also in Egypt, a bolt stabbed into my leg on a quad and I struggled with that wound for weeks. In Tanzania, I survived a day by using only one catheter and almost died of heatstroke. The same thing happened in Jordan.

The craziest and most dangerous thing was climbing the sacred rock of Pidurangala in Sri Lanka. I cycled from Prevlaka, Croatia to Greece almost without brakes on my bike. Before entering Greece, I almost died by crashing into a rock, but my escort Mateo saved me. In Patras, I could not put the catheter into my bladder. For two days in a row, I caused myself a seizure and almost had a stroke. In Turkey, we were trapped in snow and storm, so we slept over in the middle of the highway. There is more, but I think even the ones I mentioned are too much.

Slaven at the beach in Šri Lanka
Slaven in Šri Lanka

Marija: There is a special law for people with disabilities in America. Is there something similar in Croatia and what does it mean?

Slaven: As far as I know, and I’m not informed enough, there isn’t anything similar in Croatia. In fact, there are some rules and regulations that are supposed to protect us. However, laws are constantly being supplemented and changed, and nothing is stable and constant.

American law clearly defines the rights of people with disabilities in air travel. For example, by the law, a passenger with a disability is entitled to remain in their seat until their personal aid is delivered to them. However, it used to happen (especially in America) that a person was escorted off the plane and then told that, for example, their wheelchair was not on the plane.

Such things are horrible! Things like this limit a lot of people with disabilities to embark on a journey. This shouldn’t happen anywhere! As far as I know, such things are not prescribed by Croatian laws.

Marija: How does Croatia rank among other countries in terms of accommodation for people with disabilities?

Slaven: I would say that Croatia is somewhere in the middle, but when compared to advanced and developed countries, we are far behind. There are not many accommodations, but things are changing as people’s conscience is slowly changing for the better.

I would say that the accommodation is not a problem when compared to the infrastructure. Our most famous tourist attractions are not even closely adapted for disabled people, not to mention the lesser-known ones and Croatian islands.

Slaven on the island of Pag, Croatia
Slaven on the island of Pag, Croatia

Marija: Are there common misconceptions or assumptions that a person with a disability may have when coming to Croatia?

Slaven: Well, I believe you can hear different things: from thinking that we don’t have electricity to the opinion that everything is adjusted for disabled people. People often contact me with inquiries about Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik, Split, etc. Unfortunately, I have only bad news for them. It is not possible to do anything without the help of others and it is always necessary to rely on people’s goodwill.

However, this is the way in which only disabled people with a bit of an adventurous and exploratory spirit like me travel. Most people with disabilities explicitly travel only to destinations adapted for the disabled. There is a great interest in Croatia. Unfortunately, the inaccessibility discourages foreign tourists with disabilities.

Marija: What could Croatia do better to make life easier for people with disabilities? What doesn’t work well and what are the biggest problems?

Slaven: People are not educated enough or aware of this topic. Money is being spent on the wrong things. In cases when the money is spent on the needs of disabled people, in most cases, things are made just like that, just to be done.

For example, on the beaches, there are ramps for disabled people that are completely impractical and non-functional. Besides, we as a community are absolutely not loud and united enough.

Slaven on Crna Gora
Slaven on Lovćen in Crna Gora

Marija: What is the best thing you have seen abroad in terms of people with disabilities that Croatia could implement?

Slaven: On this issue, Australia is a paradise on earth. They completely adapted the whole promenade through the oldest rainforest in the world for wheelchairs (to the extent that I could push myself in wheelchairs there).

For comparison, trails do exist on the Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park, but the wheelchairs have to be constantly driven and pushed on the rear wheels because of the slats that stick out of the path.

Marija: What advice would you give to travelers or immigrants to Croatia who are also people with disabilities – what is good to keep in mind? Do you have certain places that I would recommend to tourists?

Slaven: If they already insist on traveling, I would advise them to investigate everything in detail before the trip. They should be accompanied by someone who will help them with the obstacles. Double-check everything, send inquiries, and contact local associations for which I believe they would be happy to help. Or contact me. 😊

When talking about the adaptability of our coast, Istria can boast at least something. Some Croatian ferries are also customized. They have ramps, toilets for the disabled, and parking.

Unfortunately, the islands have nothing to boast about regarding the adaptation for the disabled. The exemption is the island of Krk. If you visit the Plitvice Lakes, definitely get in touch with the national park and rangers and see how they can help.

Basically, most of the journey comes down to the goodwill and help of the locals.

All photos are provided by Slaven Škrobot. 

How to support Slaven Škrobot

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Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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